The Adventures of Tintin

This entry marks the longest streak I’ve ever had with a movie blog. I say we’re making great strides here! So in order to keep the ball rolling I want to talk about a movie called The Adventures of Tintin.

Now before we go any further I feel as though I should make the point that I have no prior knowledge of the original source material for Tintin. I’ve gone into this movie completely with a fresh mind, not really knowing what to expect. So to those who are familiar with the source material keep that in mind as you read through. For the rest these are my thoughts as a completely new viewer.

I want to talk about the most impressive aspect of Tintin first, the animation. Aesthetically this movie blew me away from the get go. Never once did I run into the uncanny valley effect previously felt with movies such as The Polar Express or A Christmas Carol. All of the animation seemed life like yet still with a certain style to it that helped ease the line between life like and just too creepy. With that said, there are certain scenes in the movie that feel so life like that at times I often forget that it’s an animated movie that I’m watching. Mostly with the extreme long shots of the deserts, the ocean and the different cities Tintin travels to. It’s amazing to see what directors can pull off using motion capture technology. Tintin shows that used by the right directors and animation teams it can be used effectively and not in a repulsive manner. The impressive visuals is what drove me to see this movie in the first place so it was no surprise that this was the best part of the movie. If only a movie’s merit was based on visuals, Tintin would be perfect, however the most wonderfully done animation doesn’t go far without a strong plot to guide us through the movie.

The story is extremely weak in comparison to the aesthetics. Right from the start the plot feels as though it’s clumsily moving from one scene to the next due to some mishap or trouble that Tintin seems to find himself in. Once it gets going it’s almost like a snowball effect that continues onward without ever giving the audience a break to process what’s going on. Although this is how most action movies seem to get from point A to point B it would help some if they elaborated more on the story. The movie alluded to TinTin being an awesome journalist who solves cases, yet aside from one scene in a library you’re never shown Tintin doing any investigating or puzzle solving. The rest is just him running around and escaping the bad guys based off clues he’s basically handed from the very butler who seems to be working with the bad guy. I guess we as the viewer are expected to have read the source material before but as a newcomer I feel alienated. It seems we’re being told more about Tintin than we get to see for ourselves.

Yeah they’ve got the whole buried treasure plot line but without adding anything really new or inventive to it, it’s just another race against the bad guys towards the buried treasure story. Were it not for the visuals it would have been easy to get bored. Even the humor fails to impress past the typical physical comedy more geared towards a younger audience. You have your characters accidentally hitting one another without realizing they’re doing it, a couple of burp jokes, and the clumsy oaf who stumbles about and does silly things without realizing the consequences such as setting fire to a boat in the middle of the ocean because he’s cold. It’s all slapstick humor and it really didn’t work with me. Some of the other jokes within the witty banter made me chuckle and smile but there are never really laugh out loud scenes in the movie. Now I realize this is a kid’s movie so I’m probably being a little harsh but when you have other animated movies that have set the bar (take any Pixar movie, Rango, and How To Train Your Dragon for example) it’s kind of hard not to expect more from The Adventures of  Tintin.

However weak the story was, visuals weren’t the only saving grace for this film. The voice acting was extremely well done, especially with Captain Haddock. The easily ignited old sailor, quick with sea faring retorts, was brought to life by the extremely talented Andy Serkis. You can sense the honest intentions within Haddock’s voice thanks to Serkis. This really help redeem Captain Haddock who is otherwise a drunkard who runs around and screws things up. If it weren’t for the sincerity sensed within Serkis voice it would be hard forgive this character, which brings me to my next point.

Those wishing to avoid spoilers may want to skip over these next few paragraphs until you see End Spoiler.

I felt as though Captain Haddock’s character was set up for a transformation arc, yet he stays consistent throughout the entire movie. From the moment we meet Haddock it’s established that he’s a drunken sailor down on his luck and in a depressed state. He drinks until the point where he can’t remember anything setting up an obstacle for Tintin to overcome.

We find out the Haddock is the descendant of Sir Francis Haddock and within Captain Haddock’s memory is the key to helping Tintin solve the mystery in his quest. As they continue along their adventures they find themselves stranded in the desert where Haddock, now sober, begins to remember the information Tintin needs. The scene plays out in the form of a flashback until Haddock passes out from dehydration. Haddock never finishes his story and Tintin is left trying to coax out the last bit. Despite passing out this is the first step in progression for Haddock’s character towards being sober and helping Tintin but it doesn’t last long.

After being rescused Haddock is attended to by a medical staff in Bagghar where they’re keeping a close eye on him and giving him plenty of water to stay hydrated. Tintin enters the room but Haddock doesn’t recognize him at all despite the last thirty minutes of film time they’ve been through. The medical staff and Tintin try to jog his memory but nothing seems to works. Nothing except for the alcohol Haddock is given by Snowy, the dog, which helps jog Haddock’s memory. Maybe it’s just me but for being a kids movie that sort of seems to send the wrong message about alcohol, not to mention a regression in Haddock’s character.

Continue onward and we finally get to a scene where Tintin entrusts Haddock to watch over a valuable clue so if he is caught the bad guys won’t find the clue on Tintin. Which really this doesn’t make sense since both Tintin and Haddock carry onward together and the only real reason that they’re split up is for Haddock’s lack of appreciation for the opera performance that they’ve found themselves in. A performance that seems to obnoxiously go on too long if you ask me. Regardless of motivation behind Tintin’s giving of the clue, Haddock ends up where he makes a choice between watching over the clue or drinking alcohol. We watch the character firmly set aside a bottle of whiskey as though he’s done with the habit for good. Eventually the clue ends up being stolen from Haddock anyway which Tintin assumes was because he was drinking. At this point I thought okay, this is where Tintin doesn’t trust him due to his previous actions but we, the audience, are on Haddock’s side because we watched him set the alcohol down in favor of protecting the clue. Despite this set up, this is ruined when Tintin states that he can smell the alcohol on Haddock, leaving Haddock innocently smiling and shrugging. Why go through the trouble of the scene if you just discredit it?

Even at the end with the final fight between Haddock and the antagonist we see Haddock using whiskey bottles to hit the bad guys and even confidently kicks one overboard as though he’s kicked the habit for good, but one of the final shots of the scene is Haddock drinking wine saying, something similar to, One won’t hurt. Doesn’t this scream alcoholism to anyone else? It leaves Haddock right back where he started, a drunken old fool. So maybe that’s just Haddock’s character, but the way they handle it sends the wrong message to me.

End spoiler

One last criticism would be the over the top destruction. You have whole buildings being uprooted and driven down roads due to a tank stuck underneath, you have a dam releasing water through the city after a rocket is shot into the dam, and you have shipping dock being torn to pieces due to the characters duking it out using cranes  leaving a pile of destruction in its path. Yet it’s hard to care for any of it because one, you don’t see the effect it’s having in its area, and two it seems so over the top and unnecessary that it feels more like it’s put in to oo and awe at than to create a sense of tension. (possible spoiler in next sentence) Even the trips around the world ends up feeling excessive and more for the oo and awe factor due to the ending that in my opinion negates the whole movie.

In Summary:

Despite stunning visuals and animation the weak plot feels as though it’s stumbling from point A to point B with little redeeming factors for the characters. The humor doesn’t hold up well enough to break up the long movie and borderlines being a boring generic action flick. To say Tintin is a bad film wold be going a little bit too far. To be honest I’m impressed that this is the second film this year put out by Nickelodeon Movies (Rango) that is doing fairly well at least in comparison to some of their latest efforts. So no, The Adventures of Tintin is by no means a bad film, in fact a very fun film. However, the lack of substance may make it a bit challenging to get through unless viewed with the frame of mind of being just another popcorn fluff movie. I would like to see a sequel to Tintin, which of course this movie sets up nicely for, but hopefully next time around they focus less on the flashy action and focus more on the story. Although The Adventures of Tintin is worth seeing from a technical standpoint I’d find it hard to recommend it to anyone unless they’re just fans of animated movies. I feel as though this is the husk of something greater which hopefully, with a little work and time, we’ll eventually see that movie.

Notable observations:

Captain Haddock is played by Andy Serkis who is known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings (Gollum), King Kong (Kong), and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Ceaser). Andy Serkis will be reprising his role as Gollum in the upcoming release of The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey on December 14, 2012.

The screenplay for this movie was written by Steven Moffat, who just happens to be the exact same guy who helped create Sherlock (A series I’ve written about previously).

Interested in writing for ThinkingCinematic? Email your entries at RRSOLIS@me.com 

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2 responses to “The Adventures of Tintin

    • Hey thanks for the comment! Just followed your blog and look forward to sitting down and reading through. As far as whether or not Tintin is worth bothering with, I say unless your an avid fan of animation or in the mood for popcorn fluff just wait until you can rent it. It’s good to look at but there’s really not that much substance.

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